AIESEC Alumni Nigeria President and Omolayole Management Lecture convener, Olubunmi Abejirin; National Treasurer, Nigerian Institute of Management, Commodore Abimbola Ayuba (Rtd.); President of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, and Managing Director Vitafoam Nigeria Plc, Mr. Taiwo Adeniyi; and Dr. Michael Omolayole, at the 38th Omolayole Management Lecture Series, in Lagos… recently.

…say agricultural sector needs immediate attention

Industry stakeholders who converged at the 38th annual Omolayole Management Lecture (OML) series on Thursday have reignited calls to revamp and reposition Nigeria’s agricultural sector to combat the looming food scarcity.

There are concerns that Nigeria’s dependence on imports to satisfy growing wheat consumption might face its biggest challenge due to Russia’s war with Ukraine. Already, the Russia-Ukraine war has disrupted global grain and energy markets, which would push up food prices in food-importing countries.

This year’s OML series, which focused on “Sustainable Development of the Agricultural Sector for National Well-being,” provided the opportunity for key stakeholders of high intellectual capacity to analyze and recommend new ideas to harness the potential of the agricultural sector and boost the economy.

In a lecture delivered by Dr. Muda Yusuf, Chief Executive Officer, Center for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), he said it has become critical for Nigeria to start paying attention to the agricultural sector by ensuring that its potential is effectively harnessed. Dr. Yusuf mentioned that while the agricultural sector contributes 26 percent to the country’s gross domestic product and 60 percent of the entire labor force, its value chain remains critical to the growth of the economy. According to him, the value chain of agriculture impacts manufacturing, transportation, marketing, and exports, providing a lot of benefits to the economy in the areas of food security and poverty reduction, and opined that Nigeria should be earning more foreign exchange from the sector than it does.

“Nigeria needs to look at what we are not doing well because the country is so blessed to be a leading food producer and exporter. For some reason, we have not been able to achieve that.”

According to Dr. Yusuf, some of the challenges affecting agriculture development in Nigeria include low use of technology; access to land; climate change; poor irrigation system; lack of fertilizer; insecurity; corruption; bureaucracy; access to funding; access to markets; inadequate storage; and lack of interest among the youth to venture into agriculture, among others. He said that there are more than enough programs and schemes by the Nigerian government to aid the sector, but many of those programs have gone extinct without achieving the desired purpose.

“We had Commodity Boards which were scrapped, the Nigeria Agricultural Cooperative Bank, which is moribund practically because nothing is happening there. We have the Directorate of Foods. We have Presidential Initiatives on special commodities.

Dr. Yusuf suggested that the energy of Nigerian youths is needed to drive the sector, just as they have shown resilience and ingenuity in the areas of ICT, entertainment, and now politics. “Because of our demographics, the youth are showing their creativity in other areas of the economy, but we are yet to see that in the agricultural sector… If we must move forward, it is sacrosanct to ensure that entry barriers are removed to encourage participation.”

Event convener and President of the AIESEC Alumni Nigeria, Olubunmi Abejirin, said that the decisions that policymakers and stakeholders in the entire food value chain make today will have long-term consequences for the future of the world’s food systems and significantly impact national food security initiatives. Ms. Abejirin said it was important to start having broader conversations on Nigeria’s preparedness for the looming food crisis and strategize on how to feed Nigeria’s 200 million people. “Nigeria has sufficient land for agriculture, with 70.8 million hectares of agriculture land area. However, we still have to address the challenge of high-quality inputs for crop production, especially, fertilisers, subsidies, and other issues such as agricultural markets and trade flows, and food waste, among others.”

The OML series have consistently been organized in honor of Dr. Michael Omolayole, the ninety-three-year-old erudite management expert who has continued to show passionate dedication in the pursuit of short and long-term goals of business leadership in Nigeria and Africa.

According to the AIESEC Alumni President, Dr. Omolayole has shown his nation-building capacity by continuously spearheading programs and initiatives that have propelled our indigenous leadership and management economy to greater heights. “He is proof of the high regard the corporate world as a collective hold for Dr. Omolayole, with the collaboration between the NIM, LCCI, NECA, and CIPM for almost a decade, enabling key stakeholders of high intellectual capacity to analyze and recommend new ideas to benefit the business and economic development of our country.”

Other stakeholders at the event include the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), a leading voice of advocacy for employers in the organized private sector in Nigeria; Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI); Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM), and the Nigeria Institute of Management (NIM). The Chairperson of this year’s event and President of NECA, Mr. Taiwo Adeniyi, noted that the agricultural sector remains a fundamentally critical sector in the development of a nation, and said that with the recent upsurge in banditry in the North and other areas, which has prevented agricultural activity, farming has been crippled to the point of collapse.

Mr. Adeniyi, who is also the Managing Director of Vitafoam Nigeria Plc, acknowledged that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has taken some steps towards the development of agriculture through the Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme and the Backward Integration program, but said that more needs to be done to ensure food security.

The OML lecture had in attendance, captains of industries, CEOs of top corporations, management gurus, related government agencies, and financial institutions, and other guests from various sectors of the economy.

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